The Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) has awarded Guy Mpoyi the Community Leadership Award for his work teaching recent immigrants how to use southern Maine’s public transportation network.
Mpoyi, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, spearheaded GPCOG’s Bus Ambassadors program, which helps immigrants navigate the region’s transit system safely and independently.
“Guy has a great heart, and he cares about people,” said Marcel Ntagora, Planning and Outreach Associate at GPCOG.
The Bus Ambassadors program connects individuals and families to volunteers who provide support to asylum seekers in their preferred language. The program is a collaboration with Greater Portland METRO, and the South Portland Bus Service.
“When Mpoyi came to Maine in 2019 as an immigrant, he struggled to navigate the bus system, Ntagora said. “But after he learned how it works, Guy didn’t stop at that. Instead, he got involved and spoke up to advocate for others … He just wants Portland to feel like home so everyone is safe and has equitable access to public transportation.”
Mpoyi most recently has been focusing his efforts on reaching asylum seekers living in hotels in Freeport and Yarmouth. Every Tuesday and Thursday, asylum seekers have been riding buses from the hotels to the Hannaford supermarket in Yarmouth and to the City of Portland Department of Social Services on Forest Avenue. The chartered RTP bus is a temporary transportation service that Cumberland County is funding.
Mpoyi has recruited 10 volunteer Bus Ambassadors. Each are vetted and trained volunteers who speak French, Swahili, Lingala, Tshiluba/Ciluba, Spanish, and English.
“Many new immigrants don’t have cars, so they need to use public transportation to get where they need to go,” Mpoyi said. “But information about how to use public transportation can be difficult to find, especially if you have limited English proficiency.”
Myopi, whose native language is French, speaks five languages. He lives in Westbrook.
Myopi says he is proud of the award as well as the recognition he receives from community members. “It makes me feel like I did something right, and I feel like a human being,” he said. “The best thing you can do as a human: give help to other people who need it.”
The program continues to recruit community members who speak other commonly spoken languages in the region.